First off, let me say that I went into this hoping to love it. I’ve been a huge fan of the original Rocky IV movie for decades. Probably think it’s the best of the series. I still have Hearts On Fire in my workout playlist and the poster hanging on my office wall. So when I heard that Stallone was working on a Directors Cut, I was stoked to see additional footage. But, what I wasn’t expecting was for whole scenes to be removed. I had heard that he wasn’t a fan of the robot. So I expected those scenes to get cut.
But first, let’s start at the beginning. As I got into the theater, about 5 minutes before start, there was some promos for the Directors Cut playing. Then, we were treated to a half hour interview with Stallone live from Philadelphia. I actually had no idea that was going to be part of the night! It was pretty interesting except the interviewer started talking more about how Stallone got started with Rocky and the first movie than the Directors Cut version. He eventually brought his questions around to it but it was a bit frustrating.
After the interview, we waited a few minutes and then they brought the lights down and started the movie. It started with more of a retrospective of Rocky III. Showing Rocky getting beat by Clubber Lang and then his sulking on his motorcycle and throwing his helmet at his statue. Eventually making it back to Mickey’s Gym and talking with Apollo. They then cut to the final fight and showed a good majority of it! It was kind of strange to have so much of the previous movie at the start of this one. I know all the Rocky movies start with a short summary from the last part of the previous movie but this was A LOT more. Then it cut straight to the scene of Apollo in his pool playing with his dogs and seeing the reports of Drago coming to America for the exhibition match. It felt like it jumped too quickly to that. The big problem I had was that they removed the whole ‘friendly fight’ with Rocky and Apollo from the end of Rocky III. I don’t understand why they would do that? That was, arguably, one of the best scenes.
Then they had Apollo in a deleted scene talking with Rocky outside Rocky’s house about being approached by the Russians to fight. Pauli’s birthday was entirely removed. They did have a nice scene with Adrian and Rocky in the kitchen talking about her having a bad feeling about Apollo fighting. It really gives you a better understanding of how close they were to Apollo.
The whole scene with Rocky coming into their bedroom with a cake and the ‘snake watch’ gift for Adrian was removed as well. I feel that removing these scenes made the movie feel rushed. Also, the scenes that were removed kind of gave you the idea that Rocky and Adrian had moved on from boxing and into retirement and were settling in. Which let the original movie play that off of Apollo’s itch to get back in the ring one more time for another shot at glory. I didn’t feel that in this cut as much.
The pre-fight press conference between Apollo and Drago had some extra scenes which was nice but there were small bits of dialog that were cut that didn’t feel right when it was watched.
I was a bit shocked when it then transitioned to Drago waiting below the stage to go up and you could hear Living In America starting to play. The whole dressing room scene with Rocky and Apollo was cut out! That scene was another one to show how good of friends they had become and Rocky’s continued uneasiness at doing the fight in such a quick timeframe. It was only shown as a quick black and white flashback much later in the film. The editing of the song and Apollo coming down on the bulls head was not good. There were several times that the lyrics being sang did not line up with what James Brown was doing. A couple times Brown was just dancing and you could hear the singing but his lips weren’t moving. When Apollo was coming down a couple of the shots of him seemed out of sync. Like he should have been further lowered in the second shot due to the length of time and how fast the bull was being lowered. But he seemed at the same height as the previous shot looking down on Drago at the same angle. The scene with Drago’s wife greeting Apollo’s wife in the crowd was cut as well. Which was a shame.
The fight did give Apollo some redemption in that, after Drago was let off his leash, Apollo did fight back more in this cut than in the theatrical cut.
The funeral was drawn out a bit more, which was nice and his trainer, Mack, gave a nice eulogy. As did Rocky.
The press conference scene with Rocky and Drago announcing their fight had some extra bits in it but, again, he cut out some of the original dialogue that seemed wasteful and no real reason to do it.
A nice added scene with Adrian and Rocky in their bedroom as he’s getting ready to leave for Russia and Adrian trying to talk him out of it was nice as well and gave a little more feeling to their parting as he was heading out to train.
Getting to Russia, there were a few small added scenes. They removed the audio of Pauli listening to Alvin and The Chipmunks while roasting a marshmallow over a candle which, again, seemed like a silly omission. The training sequences had some different cuts. It didn’t take too much away from the original but you could tell it was different.
Stallone had said in interview that Drago was portrayed in original as robotic and thought he gave him more story or feeling or something. But I didn’t see it. There were small scenes where Drago looks over at Rocky or Apollo or someone and you can try to read his eyes and what he’s thinking but didn’t do much else to ‘humanize’ him much.
The final fight had some added scenes but they, again, removed some dialog that didn’t make sense. They still didn’t address how Drago’s handler got down from sitting with the Premier all the way down to Drago’s corner in the short time that they had between rounds! It’s always been a peeve of mine from the original movie and it was still there in this one.
Rocky’s speech at the end of the movie had the music that had played over it in the theatrical cut removed so it seemed more dramatic.
Something that seemed very odd to me was when Rocky exited the ring at the end of the fight he walked up to Drago and kind of gave him a little bump with his glove it looked like to seem like he was saying ‘No hard feelings’. I didn’t like this because Drago killed his friend and was unremorseful. Sure, he had just talked about changing but that’s a lot to change. Then he walked right by Drago and his wife when he was getting out of the ring. Awkward! The original movie was better with Drago looking defeated.
Overall, I didn’t hate it but I didn’t come away thinking it was anywhere near better than or as good as the original. Again, I know it was a ‘reimagining’ but it is very hard to get the original out of fans minds. There just seemed to be too many illogical cuts, scenes and dialog removed for a fan of the theatrical cut to get past. Again, just my opinion but I can’t be the only one. But if it makes Stallone happy then that’s great.